Home Alone, by Albert W. Vogt III

When it comes to certain movies, one has to be careful about what you say about them.  With how many people I know that love this film, Home Alone (1990) is one of them.  I get it, or at least I do now.  The whole world gets it.  The many sequels and versions of this film have been made are a testament to its popularity.  When I saw it as a kid, I recall liking it as much as anyone else, but I was never as passionate about it as some I know.  I decided to re-watch it recently because I am getting in the Christmas mood, and we have yet to get to Thanksgiving.  I am not sure what has brought this feeling on, but I have even put on some seasonal music late at night.  And today’s movie is a Christmas one, though its subject matter is less about the spirit of the times and more focused on Kevin McCallister’s (Macaulay Culkin) hijinks in defense of his home.  At the same time, as we shall see, there are some great messages in it that speak to Faith.

We open Home Alone on one of those stately suburban Chicago homes by which John Hughes’ films have become known.  This is the McCallister residence and them and their extended family are in an uproar as they get ready for a Christmas trip to spend the Holidays in Paris.  Standing in the front entrance is a police officer trying, and mostly failing, to get the attention of whoever is in charge of this madhouse.  His name is Harry (Joe Pesci), and when he finally has Kate (Catherine O’Hara) and Peter McCallister (John Heard) in front of him, he tells them that he is there to check on their security as there are many residences that are broken into at the time of the year.  They assure him that they are covered, and with a sly grin he leaves.  At the same time, a large stack of pizzas are delivered, and everyone gathers in the kitchen for a hasty meal amid their preparations.  The last to arrive is Kevin, and looking through the boxes he finds none of his favorite variety, plain cheese.  His older brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) has eaten all of the cheese before Kevin could get a slice.  The subsequent brawl sets off chain of events leading to the total ruin of the meal, and everyone glaring at him with blame in their eyes.  As Kate takes Kevin upstairs, admonishing her youngest son for his behavior, he defiantly wishes to be alone and never see them again as he is sent to sleep in the attic.  Overnight, the power goes out, and it results in everyone waking up much later than intended.  The only thing that stirs them at all are the airport shuttles.  In the insane rush to get everybody into the vans, a nosy neighbor kid is counted for Kevin and they leave.  Kevin awakens after his family is gone to an empty house.  Once his initial confusion wears off, he realizes that his wish has come true and he gets down to making the most of his newfound freedom.  As for his family, in their dash to make their plane, no one notices Kevin is not among them until somewhere over the Atlantic, while fighting a feeling that something was forgotten, Kate suddenly realizes it is Kevin.  Remember Harry?  He is not the cop he let on, but rather one half of a pair of burglars calling themselves the “Wet Bandits.”  The name is his partner Marv’s (Daniel Stern) idea.  Every house they rob he leaves the water in the sink running.  And there are many targets on the McCallister’s block, as Harry’s police act reveals that several families are away on vacation.  They have chosen the McCallister abode as the pick of the crop.  Hence, while Kevin has a ball watching movies he should not and eating all the ice cream, he begins to notice the strange men staking out his house.  Meanwhile, Kate is doing everything she can to get back to her son.  Leaving the rest behind, she is able to get the first available plane back to the United States.  Through a series of domestic flights, she ends up in Milwaukee, but with no more available bookings to get to Chicago.  As she pleads with the ticket agent, her plight is overheard by Gus Polinski (John Candy), a member of a polka band with the awesome name The Kenosha Kickers.  With them needing to get to their next gig but experiencing the same travel deadlock, he offers to give Kate a lift with their band.  That same night, Harry and Marv choose to attempt to get at the riches they believe are theirs for the taking in the McCallister’s house.  Standing in their way is an ingenious ten-year-old boy in Kevin, with his wide assortment of traps designed to inflict a great deal of pain on the Wet Bandits.  It would be tedious to enumerate them all, and frankly I do not know why they did not simply give up after the first few.  Anyway, the long and short of it is that it leads to their capture by the police.  The next morning being Christmas Day, Kevin awakens to Kate finally getting home, which he had been hoping for since it turns out being a kid and alone is not as great as he hoped.  Adding to the joyous reunion is the arrival of the rest of the family, who had taken the direct flight back the next morning proceeding them landing in Paris.

I suspect that the main reason why the majority of people like Home Alone is because of Macaulay Culkin’s performance, the novelty of a ten-year-old being left alone, and the intricate traps he lays to thwart Harry and Marv.  Those are fine, though this Catholic can do without Kevin finding Buzz’s Playboy magazines.  Hahaha, children and pornography?  No. Instead, what I found myself most drawn to with my recent viewing is the film’s heart.  There is a lot of material to choose from in the movie.  What I am going to focus on, though, is a character not mentioned in my synopsis, Marley (Roberts Blossom).  Early in the film we see Kevin and Buzz spying out their window at Marley as their elderly neighbor shovels snow from the sidewalk and puts down salt.  Buzz tells of an urban legend that says Marley is a serial killer, and that he puts his victims on salt as he disposes of the bodies.  Later on, when Kevin begins to feel the first stirrings of missing his family, he stops at a nearby church.  It is a Catholic one, by the way, and you can tell this by the presence of a St. Francis of Assisi statue.  You do not see those in the holy places of other Christian denominations.  In either case, it is Christmas Eve, just before Kevin’s showdown with the Wet Bandits, and he sees Marley in the pews.  Marley comes over and sits next to Kevin, and dispels many of the fears that the boy has of the old man.  In the course of their conversation, Marley says a number of sage insights about being in the church, particularly on that day.  Kevin mentions how he thinks he might be responsible for being separated from his family, to which Marley says that this is the place to be if he is feeling that way.  Amen.  Marley then reveals the reason why he is there, to see his granddaughter singing in the choir.  He then goes on to comment on how complicated families can be, relating to Kevin’s situation and Marley’s estrangement from his family.  Kevin suggests reconciliation, but Marley admits to being afraid.  I can relate on many levels, particularly with the fear.  When we give in to it, it can be paralyzing, and the more we give in and get comfortable with the condition, the harder it is to move forward in our lives.  God calls us to act out more boldly.  He did this when he went to the Cross for our sins.  In keeping with the Christmas theme, Jesus coming into the world in such a lowly state is another act of courage.  Who would listen to anyone born in a stable, whose Earthly father was a carpenter?  Kevin is encouraged to face those who would invade his house.  All of us have our own crosses we must face.  Know that God is with you, for that fear will tell you otherwise.

Home Alone is worth watching this Christmas.  I hope this review, if you are one of my many friends who love this movie, is satisfactory.  There are a few scenes in it that are put in because, ultimately, it was not made to completely appease practicing Catholics like me.  On the whole, if you are like me and perhaps have not seen it since you were twelve, take a look.  You might be surprised by what you find.


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